College coaches break down the super regional teams for the series that start Friday (on the right half of the bracket). Sources were given anonymity in exchange for their candor. All times are Eastern. Rankings indicate national seeds.
Friday: 3 p.m. (ESPN2HD)
Saturday: 1 p.m. (ESPNHD)
Sunday: 4 p.m. (ESPNHD)
Coach: Jim Schlossnagle.
Postseason History: Second super regional appearance (second in a row). Seeking first trip to Omaha.
Postseason Route: No. 1 seed at Fort Worth Regional. Won in three games, beating Baylor in the final.
“TCU gets better every year. Jim Schlossnagle gets after it—he’s on a mission. Starting behind the plate, Holaday . . . he’s the motivation. He’s the captain. The kid Curry at first base has had a fantastic year. He’s cleaned his body up since junior college, and he’s turned into a really good defensive player, and he has really good opposite-field power. Featherston has turned into a really good shortstop. I know he started shaky last year, but he’s really turned into a good shortstop. Pena is a really good player out of Western Nevada. I was shocked to see how well he played. And Holaday, that kid’s fantastic. He’s the Thurmon Munson of TCU baseball. His energy level is unbelievable, and there’s no fear in him. He’s competing. I love the guy; I think he’s special.
“Coats is a great hitter. Offensively they’re better than I’ve ever seen them. The Schultz kid in center field can run and go get it, he can really, really run and he’s really quick. The guy they put in right field is good; Rivera does a nice job. Witte is a scrappy contact hitter, but he’s a great third baseman.
“The pitching staff’s coming even stronger on late. The weekend starters were very good, and their pitching staff is very, very, very deep. They don’t lose much coming out of the pen. Purke has gotten better as the year’s gone on, that’s the key for him. He was lights-out late in the year. I don’t know that his changeup is there yet, but his slider is fantastic. He’s a power pitcher. As a freshman, he’s gotten better all year long. When he gets into a different venue is he going to be nervous? That’s the key—if he can pitch with that maturity. It’s all there, it’s just a matter of can he handle the mental side of a super regional in Austin, Texas, in the state he grew up in? That’s going to be the key for him being a freshman.
“Winkler and Maxwell can pitch. Can they light up the radar gun? A little bit. But they can really pitch. They have enough stuff to keep the score down. Winkler’s good, Maxwell’s good. They’ve got last year’s starters in the bullpen now. They can bring (senior righthander Tyler) Lockwood and (junior righty Trent) Appleby in, let them work, they both do great. They get out of jams. When you go to their bullpen, it could almost get better, just depending upon the games they’re having. They can pitch, and (pitching coach) Randy Mazey’s done a good job with them. They’ve got different looks, and they all can pitch, and they all can pitch within what they do. They don’t necessarily run velocity at you, but they run guys with some sink or a slider or a special pitch, and they’re very good.
“TCU’s very talented, but I think the thing that stands out to me is they carry a huge energy level. That’s something you don’t see that often, and it’s definitely something that jumped out to me. I think the only hole I see on that team is they’re predominantly righthanded hitters. They don’t have a lot of left/right matchup potential. I think TCU should be able to keep the score down, but it’s going to be important that Curry hit. And TCU doesn’t have a lefty on the mound either. Their righthanders pitch well against lefties, but our lefties had a better opportunity than our righties against them. They don’t have the left-on-left matchup. I think the lack of lefthanded pitching and lefthanded hitting could be the hole. But I think TCU has the best ballclub that I’ve seen in a while. I felt for sure they were Omaha-bound and still do, but that’s going to be a heck of a super regional.”
Coach: Augie Garrido.
Postseason History: Seventh super regional appearance (second in a row). Seeking 34th trip to Omaha (second in a row).
Postseason Route: No. 1 seed in Austin Regional. Won in three games, beating Rice in the final.
“Their pitching is so good, and their offense is very capable. They can put some runs on the board, but their pitching is so good it’s ridiculous. If there’s a better pitching staff in the country, I don’t know where it is.
“Jungmann’s got great stuff, great tilt because he’s so tall. His ball just gets up on guys quicker than they think. He throws strikes and he’s a competitor. He’s got experience even though he’s just a sophomore—he pitched in Omaha. He’s just got a pretty hard breaking ball. Green’s their best guy, he’s like a big leaguer. He’s not the best pro prospect out of the group, but is he going to pitch in the big leagues? Yes, unless he gets hurt. He’s got great feel, composure, there’s no highs and lows with him. He gets in trouble, it’s just a matter of time before you’re going to hit into a double play. It’s like taking a big leaguer and putting him in a college game. I’m talking an 88-91 big leaguer, excellent command, great competitor, great composure, not going to walk anybody. He’s got it all, a slider and a changeup, and got command of all of it. He could give up three hits in a row, and then double-play ball. It’s hard to mount anything against him because his stuff won’t change. He’s just really good, man. Workman has great stuff, just tremendous stuff. Strong, and he’s their No. 3. He’s everybody else’s No. 1. People are throwing their No. 3, they’re facing a guy who is everybody else’s No. 1. Great stuff, great competitor, throws strikes. They’re just boring—it’s just strikes and stuff and composure, and very, very good defense.
“It’s over if Ruffin comes in. There’s no point in trying to pitch count the starter or trying to get him out in the fifth or sixth inning, because then Ruffin’s in the game. There’s no upside by getting the starter out—it’s almost like you’re penalized for knocking the starter out because then he’s in the game. It’s just that combination of all that stuff we talk about, times 10. The stuff is great, the competitiveness—you talk about a big leaguer, I’m just stunned that guy was not a first-rounder. There’s no question that guy’s going to be a closer in the big leagues, no question. You flip on your TV and see the closer, it’s this guy. He is the toughest guy I’ve ever seen. His body language, he comes in and throws his warm-ups, the other team changes, because you just look out there and you’re like, ‘Oh (shoot).’ He brings all of it—the body language, the competitiveness, the stuff, all of it. He can be very, very pinpoint at critical moments. He’s cutter, slider, sink, and he’s down. It’s like a very fast-paced and very aggressive delivery, much like his personality. It looks a little out of control, but the result is very much under control in terms of his ability to throw it where he’s supposed to. You think he’s going to spray it, but no, that’s not going to happen. Ruffin is the best competitor in college baseball.
“They’re very good defensively. That’s the way they put their team together. They’ve got these point-guard athlete guys, like Loy at short. The game gets fast, and he’s got no problem. If they get into a jam or something, he’s going to make every play, plus he’s got great range. And when things get going crazy, he’ll pull it out and make a play. Obviously Walla is another major college point guard or football guy, just a tremendous athlete in left or center, wherever they play him. They have those guys all over the field. They have a 2.45 ERA; that is great pitching, but you don’t pull that off without tremendous athletes behind them. Rupp has gotten better behind the plate every year. He’s just a force, he’s a great competitor. He’s going to make a mistake or two, but he’s just better. They were letting him call pitches, he’s learned. He was very raw as a freshman, now he’s real good in all areas. That guy’s just a winner, period. The guy’s physical, obviously, and he’s a winner. He’s going to be a factor in winning the game in some capacity. You’re not putting up a 2.45 ERA without a force behind the plate.
“I think it’s a great lineup. Very good athletes at the top, very strong guys in the middle. The power, it seems like at the bottom there’s more power than there is speed. I think their No. 9 hole hitter had nine home runs—Etier. He’s not like some switch-hitting guy with no homers, that guy’s powerful. If Keyes or Rupp hits it, those guys have mammoth power, they can hit it out of that park or they can hit a double. Those are two guys in the middle of their order that grade out power-wise as well as anybody, and the only reason they don’t have 25 home runs is they play in the biggest ballpark in America, and they play 40 games a year there. Then Kevin Lusson, it’s not like you get through Rupp and Keyes and here are some athletes who are good defensive players only and don’t hit. It’s Lusson, who’s got some power, home runs and doubles, a switch-hitter. Then you make a mistake to Etier, and it’s a home run to the nine-hole hitter. You have to keep attacking those guys. Not to mention Moldenhauer and Shepherd. They’ve got a physical, powerful lineup who are also very good athletes defensively. Not like a bunch of DHs out there.
“To beat them, you’ve got to have a great pitcher, and your pitcher has to throw his best game. Then you’ve got to find a way to score—it’s 3-2, 2-1, 4-3. If it gets offensive, they’ll match you. You’re not going to beat them 10-2. Basically, if you get a chance to score, you have to score, period. You can’t leave 10 guys on base and beat them. It’s not, ‘Oh, we’ll just score later.’ Your best pitchers have to throw their best game. Then it’s almost like something weird has to happen in terms of their pitchers being off or maybe they make an error or something, but man, they just don’t make errors. A lot has to go wrong for them, and a lot has to go right for you.”
Friday: Noon (ESPN2)
Saturday: 1 p.m. (ESPN)
Sunday: 1 p.m. (ESPN)
Coach: Tim Corbin.
Postseason History: Second super regional appearance (last in 2004). Seeking first trip to Omaha.
Postseason Route: No. 2 seed in Louisville Regional. Won in five games, beating Louisville in the final.
“It’s kind of a typical Vandy team: really good arms and they’re very deep, and it’s not a great offensive team. They’re in the bottom half of the conference offensively, but Sonny Gray can win a game by himself, and they’ve got plenty of pitching. Usually they’re very solid defensively, very fundamental, all of that.
“Sonny’s the total package, man. Besides the power stuff, he’s got big (guts), he’s really competitive. He can win a game by himself. He’s pretty consistent with his velocity for a little guy, he was 92-96 with that hard curveball, it was really good. He’s not erratic, but he’ll make a mistake in the zone. If you have some guys with some strength, he’ll get a fastball up. His command is average, it’s not above-average. You’ve got to hope when he makes a mistake you’ve got a guy with some bat speed up who can make him pay. He’ll put a guy on base every other inning and miss up occasionally, but a lot of times that pitch gets fouled off or popped up.
“Hill is just a solid SEC/Big 12/ACC Saturday/Sunday guy: 89-91, bunch of strikes, solid slider, solid change, has some feel. Nothing above-average, but he gets to the sixth inning and he’s given up two or three runs, doesn’t beat himself. There’s really nothing special about him. Armstrong is kind of a Jekyll and Hyde: great body, great arm, can be erratic. Can have really good outings with six shutout innings, or have not-so-good outings and get knocked out in the third. Is he going to be behind in the count or ahead in the count? He’s got a pretty straight fastball. He’ll go up and get 94-95, but he’ll pitch at 91-92. That’s firm, but against good hitters with a metal bat and some strength, if you don’t locate, they can square that up if they’re ahead in the count.
“Richie Goodenow and Grayson Garvin are the lefties who shut down Louisville. I think Garvin is a good-bodied kid and has some arm strength, but Goodenow is definitely a guy who comes in and throws four sliders to lefthanded hitters and gets them out. The thing that kills you every year about Vandy is you get to Sunday, eighth inning, and you’ve already seen seven guys. You think, ‘Here comes the 86 mph slop-baller,’ but here comes another guy throwing 90-92 with a power breaking ball. The depth of power arms they have, it’s really something. All the guys with power arms, they can all spin a breaking ball—Brewer and those guys. (Righty Drew) Hayes is more of an arm strength (guy), doesn’t have a ton of feel. He’s not really your true back-of-the-bullpen shut-down guy. Brewer is their best guy, so they could be in trouble if he doesn’t pitch.
“They’ve run more than they have in the past. They don’t have a ton of sock in the middle, so they’re going to hit-and-run a little bit and steal a little more than they have. But it’s nothing glaring, they’re not extreme in any way, shape, or form. Westlake’s been fine, but he didn’t have the year he had last year. Esposito’s obviously a great player, and Harris is a really nice, gritty, gutty college player who gets ahead in the count. Gomez has done a nice job getting a bunch of hits, a bunch of singles. Same with Harrell: not going to hit a lot of homers, but can get on base and does a nice job in center field. Loftus has not turned into the middle-of-the-order guy they thought they were getting. Casali has some strength; he’s a little stiff and got a little bit of length in his swing, but he can certainly run into a ball. Giobbi’s a good baseball player, he can cover both halves of the plate, he can certainly hit a double. I would say next to Esposito, Giobbi’s the guy they’d want up in a big situation.
“Esposito’s a really good defender, he moves very well for his body type. He’s a pretty physical kid, and I think he stole 30 bases this year. His at-bats are much more competitive. Last year, when we played them, I was like, ‘I can’t believe this kid turned down one-point-whatever million dollars, he’s never going to get a third of that.’ Now you’re like, ‘OK, he’ll be a top 50 pick next year.’ He’s got some juice, he’s competitive at the plate, can run, real pretty defender. He’s easy to like.
“Defensively, it all starts on the left side of the infield with Esposito and even Harris. With Harris, it isn’t flashy, but you get to the end of the year and look at his fielding percentage—he’s just a good baseball player. Harrell does a good job in center field, they’re pretty strong up the middle. Vandy always is solid defensively; Tim (Corbin) does a good job with that. They had a real problem behind the plate last year, but Giobbi’s healthy, and he’s a good college baseball player. Good receiver, good blocker, average thrower, but their pitchers do a good job with delivery times.
“I think the whole key for Vandy is they’ve got to score. That’s my big concern for them at this point is can they score against a legitimate top 50 pitching staff? They’re obviously going to pitch and defend, but they could have some trouble scoring more than two runs against a good staff.”
Coach: Mike Martin.
Postseason History: 10th super regional appearance (third in a row). Seeking 20th trip to Omaha (last in 2008).
Postseason Route: No. 1 seed in Norwich Regional. Won in three games, beating Oregon in the final.
“Florida State I thought was the second-most balanced club in the ACC behind Virginia. They’ve got a lineup of probably no superstars but a bunch of good baseball players. They can bunt, they can run, they can hit, they can hit for power. Holt will drop a drag bunt down, then he’ll hit a home run. Those guys are extremely well coached. Those guys get to the park extremely early taking bunts and groundballs before their BP even starts. Doing all that in shorts and a T-shirt, then they go change and then do their normal BP. I think they’re a good club. I think they’re better than Miami and better than Clemson.
“Gilmartin, when he’s on, is a stud. He pitches down in the zone, three pitches for strikes, everything’s down, everything’s away, and when he misses, he misses where he wants to miss, not a misfire. Gast is not as good as Gilmartin, I think, but he’s got a stronger arm and still got pretty good stuff. Good fastball, a little firmer, 88-92—he’s a strong kid. Then the one weakness, if Florida State has a weakness, is they don’t have a bona fide No. 3 starter. They don’t have a guy they can rely on there.
“(Righty Geoff) Parker’s got a good arm, he was up to 93. Hard fastball, hard curveball. I thought he was OK. His fastball was firm but it was straight. He’ll make mistakes up in the zone, which is where a good hitting team will beat him. The curveball has pretty good depth, 12-6, he did a good job getting it over for early strikes and burying it late. (Brian) Busch is a soft lefty, everything was away, runs away. The curveball was just OK. Just a guy that if you get up there on top of the plate and look away, he’d frustrate the hell out of a very aggressive guy looking to pull. (Hunter) has just a straight, flat fastball. He has arm strength, he throws 88-91, but the slider was just a soft, loose, slip-it-in-there, not a whole lot there. I thought it was a total dropoff after Gilmartin and Gast as far as starters.
“McGee’s got a good arm as well, got a good curveball. He’s 88-91, mid- to upper-70s curveball, also throws a changeup, but the curveball is probably his best pitch. He can throw it for strikes early and bury it late. He’s a good player. I like him as a hitter too; he’s a one of the better players in college baseball. I like him, I like their shortstop Cardullo. A team of not star draft picks, but a team of good skilled baseball players that will be very tough to beat. They know how to play the game. If your third baseman is back with two outs, they’ll drag bunt with two outs. If you’ve got the infield in and there’s a runner at third base, they know to look for something up in the zone and knock it to the outfield. They are very good—as good as anyone we’ve faced—at minimizing their mistakes and taking advantage of other teams’ mistakes. I think that’s the sign of a good offensive club, not trying to do more with a pitch—if it’s a strike but maybe they can’t drive it, they don’t swing at it, and they end up maybe drawing a walk. If you pitch them away, those guys are going to try to drive the ball the other way.
“Defensively, I really like their shortstop—Cardullo’s a good player. They’re using two really good athletes at second and third, Travis and Sherman Johnson. Johnson is a good player, a really good player, a fast-twitch kid, makes the great play, makes the routine play. That’s been their MO, they mostly just get really good players, they’ll get a Stephen Drew or a Buster Posey once in a while, but they get good players and get the most out of them. Cardullo, Holt and McGee are their best players. Tapley can hit a mistake and hit it out. I love Ramsey. He can run, he can hit, same mold—good athlete, good baseball player. Maybe he doesn’t profile as a first-round pick, but just a good player. Jayce Boyd is another one, 6-3, lean and athletic, just looks the part. Boyd’s going to be pretty good. He’s got some serious pop in his bat. For a freshman, I thought he was very advanced for a freshman. He hit some balls that looked like a 3-wood coming off his bat.
“The key to beating them is to get Gilmartin and Gast out of the game as quickly as possible. They’re athletic and can run and do some things once they get on base. Minimizing the walks, the errors, the HBPs is very important against them. I think Vandy matches up with them because they have much more pitching depth, but how quickly can they get Gast and Gilmartin out of the game?
“They’re going to draw a great crowd—it’s going to be 5,000 to 7,000. Some crowds just show up and clap when good things happen, react to what goes on. Other crowds truly know how to create momentum for the team on the field, and that’s what they do. It comes from 30 years of winning. It’s loud as hell at that place because they’ve got an overhang. Florida State’s a good team at home, they feed off the energy of that place.”
Friday: 10:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
Saturday: 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
Sunday: 10 p.m. (ESPN2)
Cal State Fullerton
Coach: Dave Serrano.
Postseason History: 10th super regional appearance (eighth in a row). Seeking 17th trip to Omaha (second in a row).
Postseason Route: No. 1 seed in Fullerton Regional. Won in five games, beating Minnesota in the final.
“All their pitchers are pretty much the same: a heavy dose of sliders and sinking fastballs. They all have phenomenal command. Any time in college baseball when you can walk three guys or less on average, your command is very good. They pitch to location repeatedly, and when they’re going good they’re tough. They had guys drafted who didn’t even warm up when we played them. They have so much talent up and down their team it’s really incredible.
“Noe Ramirez I thought had the best overall stuff. Ramirez is anywhere from 85-90, he throws a hard slider 75-80, he pitches on the outer half of the plate repeatedly, his fastball sinks very well. He’s kind of got a quick, jerky arm action and it’s hard to pick up, and he throws nothing but strikes. They like to throw away early to get ahead in the count, then bury a slider or a changeup to put you away late in the count. Floro was pitching on Friday since Pill went down. He’s got an elbow bruise so he can’t throw. Floro’s 90-92 with a good slider, and everything’s hard. No changeups or anything there, but a good sinking fastball and a hard slider. Renken reminded me of a Jered Weaver type. Real tall, long arms, movement all over the place. It sinks, runs, cuts, got a slider, deceptive motion, puts his hands up over his head like a Japanese pitcher before he ever starts. Different arm slots, that’s why I say reminded me of a Weaver. He showed arm-side run on his fastball, a hard slider at 80 mph and a split. Their closer is Nick Ramirez, he came in and all he threw is changeups. He’s got an excellent changeup. He’s only throwing 86-87 but his changeup and breaking ball are pretty good.
“The guy (Colin) O’Connell who beat Minnesota in the regional was very effective, but the guy hasn’t pitched a ton this year—he was in relief some on weekends and made some midweek starts. He’ll pitch again. He’s got really a shorter, quick arm action, he’s got a really good breaking ball, he throws a split also to pull you away from the fastball. His arm is quick so it gets on you. He’s only 85-88, but it gets on you. When he catches you looking for the split or the breaking ball, it gets by you.
“Pill didn’t even pitch in the regional and he’s one of their better guys. Brown didn’t play in the regional at all, and I don’t know if he’ll play this weekend either. Brown just has incredible speed. You’ve just got to play your corners way up. He’s improved his hitting so much over the course of his career. He’s not that big of a guy, but his numbers are dominating.
“Some of our pitchers that pitched against them that had pretty good fastballs, we felt like we could get them out with the velocity. I was surprised how their hitters did not handle velocity.
“They’re a reflection of Augie Garrido, Dave Snow, George Horton, Wally Kincaid: the whole small ball, bat control, skill-oriented offense that drives you nuts. They’re not going to stand there and try to hit it out of the yard; they’re not Gorilla Ball at all. They love to have a good game, 7-2, 5-4, 5-3. They play one run at a time. They do have a couple guys in the middle like Jones and Ramirez who can hit it out of the park if you make a mistake. Colon’s got 16 bombs in the leadoff spot, so they play that way too. They’ve got different ways to beat you. Sometimes they’ll empty the playbook: safety squeeze, suicide squeeze, first-and-third pickoff, a delayed steal, steal third base against a lefthanded pitcher. When you’re playing them, there’s a lot of pressure on your defense, and you’ve got to be able to handle their short game, then all of a sudden when you make a mistake, Jones, Ramirez or Pill or Colon will lose one on you. They don’t steal a lot, but they move runners. The leadoff hitter, Colon, obviously a first-round pick, phenomenal talent, power, he does make a couple of bad throws on occasion. He likes the fastball, but he’s kind of a free-swinger. He likes to pull the ball and get it up.
“Pedroza, the third baseman, is a switch-hitter. He is all of 5-foot-5, 135 pounds. He is a peanut. He bunts a ton—either a push, a drag, a sac bunt. Against a lefty, he’ll push bunt. He’ll drag. You have to play the corner infielders way up on the grass, like you do against Gary Brown. He’ll take pitches, he’ll get hit by pitches. There are not a lot of programs in the country who would give that guy a scholarship, because he is incredibly small. Ramirez is a big, huge guy, a free-swinger, who will expand the strike zone with two strikes and goes the other way to the left-center gap deep. We felt like he guesses a lot, and if he guesses right he can lose one late. You can get him to chase up. Marcoe is pretty much a dead pull hitter but a typical Fullerton player who can execute a lot of parts of the game. Siddons, you can jam him and throw the breaking ball away. He’s playing center now for Brown, and he’s certainly not in Brown’s category.
“The other thing they do, they change positions in the batter’s box during an at-bat. They move up in the box with two strikes to try to take away the breaking ball. We saw that as an advantage; we try to put away with the fastball late. They do some odd things. These guys will try anything; they’ll two-out drag, they’ll squeeze, they’ll safety squeeze. They’ve got a play with runners on first and second, and the third-base coach dekes the third baseman to think the runner is stealing third, and the third baseman will cover the bag and the batter will drop down a drag bunt. That’s how detailed they are to try to beat you any way they can. I was watching Serrano give signals to the catcher for a while. The minimum number of touches he had to his body for any given pitch was 16, and he had as many as 22 touches. Twenty-two! It’s not simple baseball, put it that way.
“I really believe they have a chance against UCLA because, No. 1, they beat UCLA twice midweek during the year. Secondly, they’re just such a hard team to play against. Even if you have better talent than them on the mound, they find ways to get guys on base by getting hit by pitches, bunting, they move runners by hit-and-run. An extremely detailed, skill-oriented offense that’s very well coached, and obviously they work on it repeatedly.”
Coach: John Savage.
Postseason History: Third super regional appearance (last in 2007). Seeking third trip to Omaha (last in 1997).
Postseason Route: No. 1 seed in Los Angeles Regional. Won in three games, beating UC Irvine in the final.
“I think they’re real good. Obviously everything starts and ends with their pitching. The fact that they’re big on the front and big on the back, it’s tough. You’re facing Cole, then you’re facing Bauer, then you’re facing Rasmussen. Believe it or not, we thought their pitching got better as it went on. Cole will be 95-98 with a slider, but he can get a little excitable, he’ll miss out over the plate, so you’ll get more pitches to hit with him. You’ve got just to be ready hit the fastball. Bauer is four pitches, changeup in the dirt or elevate the fastball. He’s developed a cutter he can throw for strikes now. He’s always around the zone. His stuff goes down a little bit in the stretch, so if you can get runners on base you’re better off.
“Rasmussen was a four-pitch mix and dominant: 90-93, cutter in the dirt, 12-6 curveball and changeup. It’s a battle to score. It starts and ends with their pitching—it’s shutdown pitching top to bottom. Cole isn’t losing velocity, then you get to Bauer and you’re thinking, ‘OK, we’re not going to face 98,’ but it’s 90-94 and you’ve got more pitches you’re dealing with. Then you get to Rasmussen, and it’s not quite as much velocity, but he’s lefthanded and throws strikes. In the past he’s been erratic with his fastball, behind in the count with his fastball, and you didn’t want it to get to two strikes because of his 12-6. Now he’s got the cutter, makes him a tougher beast.
“They’re not afraid to throw more pitches because they know their ‘pen is so good, so it allows them to be a little finer in the zone because they know if their pitch count gets up, they have quality to go to right after them. The end of game you go (Matt) Grace for lefthanded hitters, (Erik) Goeddel for righthanded hitters, then Klein to finish it. Then if they need you’re talking about (Matt) Drummond, (Garett) Claypool, the (Scott) Griggs kid—all good arms.
“They play real good defense, they’re real athletic. Gallego makes their defense go in the middle, Rahmatulla’s a real good player. They go left to right with (Justin) Uribe or Espy at first, and Regis plays a real good third base. The outfield is real athletic, with Krill, now Gelalich is playing some because (Cody) Keefer’s been out. I think up the middle they’re strong. Rodriguez does a real good job behind the plate. Rahmatulla and Gallego is a real good combination. And Amaral’s a real good player in center. It’s the least arm of the three, but he’s a table-setter at the plate, he doesn’t strike out a whole lot, puts the ball in play, can run, understands the game, and he’s a real good center fielder.
“So they’re real athletic up the middle, and they have a good balance of right and left at the plate. They can manufacture runs, but they do have some power: Regis is starting to hit some balls out now, he started out with more gap power, but he’s had more homers the last couple weeks. And Krill isn’t swinging and missing as much as he was. He’s more patient at the plate; it used to be you could cross-count him and he’d be out. He’d wave at a breaking ball. Now he’ll lay off that pitch and when the ball is up in the zone, he’s putting a good swing on it. They keep coming at you. Dunlap has been good in the DH slot. It’s as tough a group one through nine to pitch to as it has been in a while, because they do more things. They’re not just trying to hit the three-run homer, although there are times they still let it fly. They’re real aggressive on the bases, they look to steal third. It’s as complete a UCLA team as I can remember.
“I think (assistant coach) Rick Vanderhook has to do with it, no doubt. Hooky coming in, there was some credibility to him; think about where he came from (Cal State Fullerton). He came from a place that went to Omaha every year, and they didn’t always do it with the who’s-who. They could manufacture runs and bunt and hit-and-run and drag and get hit by pitches, they would do all those things that in the past that UCLA didn’t do. They used to have real good players and let them stand up there and hit. Now they have real good players that have bought into the system. Last year was their first year in (Vanderhook’s) system, and I don’t know if they fully figured it out. Now it looks like they have. They have some freshmen that play, they’re more athletic, they’re balanced left and right; they were really righthanded last year. When you have front-line, shutdown pitching, it allows you to relax and hit, because you know you only have to score three or four runs to win. They can let the game come to them a little more when they have those guys on the mound. It’s easier to be a tough, scrappy team when you have pitchers who can stand up there and be the bully for you.
“(To beat them), I think you’ve got to be able to score some runs, be patient. I think when you’re facing those guys, you’ve got to keep punching them, because you know they’re going to go after you with their arms. When you have a chance to put those guys away, you’ve got to put them away.”
Friday: 7 p.m. (ESPNHD)
Saturday: 7 p.m. (ESPN2HD)
Sunday: 7 p.m. (ESPN2HD)
Coach: Jim Morris.
Postseason History: Tenth super regional appearance (last in 2008). Seeking 24th trip to Omaha (last in 2008).
Postseason Route: No. 1 seed in Coral Gables Regional. Won in four games, beating Texas A&M in the final.
“I thought they were a solid team, but not a great team. I thought they were good. We saw Hernandez and (Eric) Erickson, I thought both were pretty solid pitchability lefthanders that knew how to pitch, had decent offspeed stuff, could command their pitches down in the zone. I thought those guys were OK. But after that, I really was not impressed with the depth of their pitching staff.
“Same thing with their offense. You’ve got some stud players in Grandal and Martinez, and Scott Lawson can hit. Those are the guys who hit 3-4-5 for them, but after that, Melendres is OK, Pelaez is OK, Perez is pretty good. A lot of solid guys after that. Maybe it was unfair, but you think of Miami, you think of that ’08 team that had a Double-A roster on the field. I think they’re doing a good job with the lineup they have. It’s not the stable of quality arms they’ve had in the past. To be in a super regional with this team is pretty good. For not having as much high-end talent besides a couple guys, they’ve done good to get where they are.
“Hernandez is the best they’ve got. The cutter was the percentage pitch for him. For most lefties against righthanded hitters, the approach is to look away and go deep oppo. But with him, I told our hitters try to pull the ball, because he’s going to try to run the cutter in on your hands. That was our plan, because he threw it like 70 percent of the time. It was like a small little slider. It’s a good pitch, especially if he didn’t throw it as much, maybe it would be an even better pitch. But he just knows how to pitch, though, and he’s got a couple different pitches he can throw. He throws a changeup to righthanded hitters, he’s got a curveball he drops in to lefties, and the cutter to both, righties and lefties.
“Santana’s not impressive. He’s a mid-80s, average stuff, will get a lot of contact, will pitch backwards when he has to. Going to stay away, away, away, a lot of changeups, work fast. Kind of a trick pitcher, doesn’t have a knockout pitch, doesn’t have a firm fastball to blow you away. Quick tempo, uses offspeed a lot, pitches to contact. I guess that’s OK, but if you’re at the University of Miami as a Sunday starter . . . but you never know. They’ve had some injuries, you lose a couple guys in the draft, have to make do with a guy like that for a year.
“Wulf was their go-to guy in the pen. He’s just a thick-bodied righthander that had a firm fastball, not a lights-out fastball but upper 80s, touching 90, and he threw a hard slider/cutter deal. He threw the hell out of it, but that was it. Kind of a two-pitch guy. He did have a curveball and threw it once in a while. (Righty E.J.) Encinosa had a good arm, 88-91, run and sink on the fastball, slurvy breaking ball. Slow to the plate though—we tried to run on him quite a bit. (Sam) Robinson’s like a low three-quarters left-on-left specialty guy out of the pen. I think he’s low 80s velocity, not too much velo, but you really have to have a good approach offensively to beat guys like that, because those guys can frustrate the hell out of you. (Daniel) Miranda was OK, a lefthander that threw pretty hard, fastball/slider/change, he did a good job against us. He did a good job of getting his slider over early for a strike, he knew how to bury it, he was pretty good. Controlled the running game really well, good move. Whaley is 89-91, good fastball/slider mix, misses bats when he’s down but will make a mistake up in the zone. He does throw a curveball and a slider, and his changeup is kind of a split.
“Martinez is not the hitter Grandal is. Grandal is a really good hitter. He does not throw any at-bats away. He’s going to crush mistakes, he’s going to hit good pitching. He just looks like a hitter up there. Martinez scares you because you know if you make a mistake, he’s liable to hit it into the parking deck. But his average is like a hundred points less than Grandal. He’s kind of a feast or famine guy. He’s going to get his hits, but he’s probably got one thing on his mind, and that’s hitting a jack. Whereas Grandal will take whatever he gets. If you’re going to stay away, he’ll hit a line drive the other way, and still hit mistakes over the fence too. He’s good from both sides of the plate, I thought. His swing looked pretty damn good from both sides, especially lefthanded.
“They’re starting some young players who’ve done a nice job. Perez, DeVoss, those kids have done a really good job for being freshmenDeVoss, Perez, Broad, Lawson—they’re not big, physical guys. Those guys aren’t 6-feet tall, but what those guys do is they play well within their role, they get on base and steal some bases. Perez, DeVoss and Melendres will steal some bases. They’ll get on and go. Lawson’s got some pop in his bat. Grandal and Martinez are by far their biggest power threats.
“From a pitching standpoint, you limit the mistakes to Grandal and Martinez, you don’t let the three-run homer beat you with them. Those are their big run producers. I’d rather pitch to their run manufacturer guys and force them to try to get on base and make things happen and try to control Grandal and Martinez. I think those other guys are more easily pitched to. Now that Erickson’s out, I think if you’ve got a good pitching staff like Florida does, with some big, physical monsters like (Florida) does in its lineup, I think they match up pretty well. This is a team that’s going to take advantage of mistakes because they’re a scrappy team, so if you walk them, make errors, hit them, I think that’s probably how they exploit some other teams, because they’re athletic enough to get on base and do some things, then Grandal or Martinez can hit a bench-clearing double or a jack. They’re pretty athletic—not as athletic as Virginia, but pretty athletic. And from an offensive standpoint, there’s nobody overly scary, but they’re very aggressive.”
Coach: Kevin O’Sullivan.
Postseason History: Fourth super regional appearance (second in a row). Seeking sixth trip to Omaha (last in 2005).
Postseason Route: No. 1 seed in Gainesville Regional. Won in three games, beating Florida Atlantic in the final.
|CF||Matt den Dekker||L||Sr.||.361||.434||.584||13||48||26||46||23|
“I’ll be shocked if they don’t get to Omaha and do something. All the way around, they’re just really good. They’re really good in the bullpen, their defense is just ridiculous. Those freshman starters are starting to pitch like sophomores, and they’re very fundamental. Maddox is special, Tucker’s for real. I can’t believe how young they are too—it’s really depressing for the conference. Fontana has made, what, three errors all year? It’s ridiculous. Florida really doesn’t beat themselves, because they can pitch and they play defense and have enough offensively.
“I would say all those starters, they don’t dazzle you, but they’re just competitive and they throw so many strikes, especially Panteliodis and Randall. They throw their offspeed for strikes, keep the ball down. They don’t dazzle with velocity or the sharpness of their offspeed, but they’re always ahead in the count. Randall’s got some sink, but he’s got really, really impressive feel and command. He’s got a little action on it, but he just throws everything from the knees to four inches above the knees; you never get a pitch belt-high or even mid-thigh high from him. Panteliodis is fastball-slider-change. Johnson throws a bunch of strikes, but you can put some big swings against him.
“I think the unsung hero in their bullpen is (Jeff) Barfield. He’s just an older guy with a breaking ball who’s done it for a few years now; he comes in and gets their righties out. (Nick) Maronde and (Paco) Rodriguez are tough on lefties. They are very confident going to the bullpen in the sixth inning, that’s not something many teams in college baseball can say. As soon as Randall gets to 85 pitches in the sixth, and there’s a couple guys on base, they go to Barfield to get the double play right-on-right or they go to Maronde, and they mix and match for two and a third, and the game is over when Chapman comes in. He’s got life on his fastball, there’s velocity, but there’s deception there. Our guys took really bad swings at his fastball—we were missing fastballs by six inches. He probably threw 85 percent fastballs; I had a lot of respect for him. I can’t believe he lasted until the fourth round.
“Who’s better up the middle than those guys? The Yankees, maybe. That’s how you draw it up, with guys like that. I think den Dekker’s a really good player who’s a really good defender. I guess the pro guys are trying to figure out how much he’s going to hit. He’s really good in center field, runs like a deer, has a plus arm for our level, and makes every play. I’ve always liked him, and he’s a very good college player. Fontana and Adams do a great job in the middle infield. It’s hard in college baseball to string four hits together. If they’re not walking you or kicking the ball around, it’s hard to have a big inning.
“Fontana can get a hit, hit a mistake, has competitive at-bats. Maddox is special. Tucker’s a great player, he can cover both halves of the plate, he’s polished and has juice. That’s a legitimate right-left, middle of the order punch. They don’t scare you in the bottom of the order, but they only have to score five runs per game. Their kids play with so much confidence because they know if they have the lead in the sixth inning, the game’s over. The other thing Florida does, if they need a bunt, they can do it. If you’re sloppy with the running game, if your pitcher’s slow to the plate, they can take a base. They have some guys who can push and drag, they can take advantage. They’re solid all the way around.
“The key against them is scratching five or six runs. If you can figure out a way to score on them, you’ve got a chance, because they’re not going to put up 10 or 12. I don’t know much about Miami’s team, but they’re going to have to score, and that’s hard. They’re going to be able to hold Florida to five or six; they got to score five or six.”